On the fashion calendar, resort traditionally is a season steeped in irony: You're sure to find a bikini or three among a designer's offerings, even though this is a collection that will arrive in stores just in time for Thanksgiving.
To comprehend the foibles of resort, you need to understand its heritage. Historically this was the collection for ladies seeking "traveling clothes" in that glamorous era when women like Babe Paley or Slim Keith packed their Louis Vuitton trunks and sailed off to Bermuda for the winter.
Make no mistake, that still happens -- who doesn't want to escape to warmth in January? -- but in recent years resort has achieved a deft balance of pragmatism with a dash of devil-may-care flair. This season the latter is seen in brilliant colors, a heavy emphasis on bold, graphic prints and white as a staple color -- and not winter white, but a bright white in everything from moto jackets to mules.
Fashion houses are quick to point out the season's increasing importance to their bottom line (it tends to stay in stores longer than other collections), and yet presentations generally tend to be intimate, informal affairs, the polar opposite of the splashy (and expensive) runway shows produced for spring and fall. And as these collections demonstrate, if there's one hard and fast rule about resort it's this: There are no rules.
OSCAR DE LA RENTA
Ask Oscar de la Renta about a specific reference any season, and chances are he'll smile that debonair smile and note that his goal is always "to make women feel simply beautiful." For resort that meant an emphasis on florals, both delicately embroidered on an organza dress in pale blue or oversized and graphic in black and white on a skirt. De la Renta famously loves his garden, and if the upcoming New York winter is anything like the one we just experienced, his bouquet of blossom-accented clothes should provide a welcome respite.
One classic holdover of the resort tradition is "easy dressing," the notion that the clothes of this season never feel too restrictive, and nowhere was the idea more in evidence than at Donna Karan. Comprising floaty, fluid layers in jersey, chiffon, cashmere or beaded tulle (and often cleverly mixed together), Karan's collection seems made for those parties when you want to feel a little glam, a little sexy and totally comfortable. Heidi Klum evidently agrees: She's already worn one of the dresses from this collection, a peach chiffon halter gown, to the CFDA Awards earlier this month.
Emphasizing resort's need for pragmatism, Kors took care to point out details he knew would find favor with retailers: a group of shearling coats "because women really do want to buy coats in December," or a wisteria-toned knit dress with a long sleeve. A delicate femininity ran throughout the collection, and Kors seemed to take pride in his rule-breakers: a little black dress completely covered in ruffles, and for the final look, a nude tulle gown that would be great for a second wedding. "And the bride wore nude," he joked.
DIANE VON FURSTENBERG
Glam '70s has always been at the heart of von Furstenberg's DNA, a lanky, sexy spirit that's become her own brand of feminism. For resort von Furstenberg says she was inspired by Stephen Burrows, who made his own name in that decade for clothes rooted in graphic color-blocking, and DVF employed that here in some dizzying mixes: florals in red and cobalt or, among her iconic wraps, a ballet-inspired top with sleeves in a flurry of stripes.
Actually this show was anything but intimate; rather, it was a high-wattage extravaganza that kicked off New York's resort season. Dior artistic director Raf Simons opted for Duggal Greenhouse in the Brooklyn Navy Yard as the backdrop for his boxy, cropped jackets and high-waisted skirts with volume around the hips, as well as graphic prints, many inspired by silk scarves found in the Dior archives.
Of all the resort collections, this seemed to be the one best suited to those traveling trunks. Lauren kicked off the show with an emphasis on nautical themes -- navy and white polka dots or stripes, the perfect navy blazer with white wide-leg trousers -- before segueing into dresses and separates in the same color palette, but a decidedly more minimalist air. Put your order in now for the stunner of a navy diamond-halter gown with a deep keyhole and cutout back; perfect for New Year's Eve, no matter where you choose to celebrate it.
Mod is a reference often favored for its minimalist lines, so after a few seasons of Francisco Costa pushing the boundaries with texture and detail, is it any wonder that Calvin Klein's creative director of womenswear wants to explore something that feels a bit more streamlined? Costa served up several easy A-line dresses in poppy tones of coral or cornflower blue, as well as the season's ubiquitous white, and some great coats, including one in cobalt leather.
ELIZABETH AND JAMES
Pared-down chic meets sporty details is the vibe found in the contemporary line designed by Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen (one of several collections produced by the celeb twins, who also craft the higher-end line The Row). Among the strongest pieces: Different takes on a moto-jacket cut, from a blouse version in sheer organza to a weightier version in a laser-cut lattice pattern. A scuba-like dress in navy and white also emphasized the Olsens' love of reflecting their own yin and yang -- uptown luxe meets downtown edge.
BCBG MAX AZRIA
Max and Lubov Azria are celebrating the 25th anniversary of their mainstream label, and with that in mind Max wanted to give a shoutout to his Tunisian heritage. Translation: a beachy-meets-exotic feel, heavy on breezy whites, tunics and caftans. You will find some pieces to wear to the office, including a couple of great leather jackets, cropped and embroidered, as well as below-the-knee skirts paired with menswear-inspired shirts.
Herrera was another designer inspired by garden themes for resort, offering up artful takes on one of the flowers you least expect to see in the middle of winter: the daisy. The graphics of her daisy print called to mind another favorite of Herrera's, polka dots, which like all full-circle fashion moments, are gaining in popularity once again. Herrera noted her overall mood was one of ease and "understated elegance," seen in simplicity of lines and prints that never felt fussy.